Up to us – part 1/3: the demonstration

** On January 2nd the far right marched the streets of Amsterdam under the guise of anti-corona sentiments, in a demonstration that was officially banned by the municipality. A group of Jews decided to lead a counter-demonstration at the Jewish resistance memorial. This blog is the first part of a trilogy bringing forward why this was so important, how it came about and how to take it from here. **

The new year’s barely started and the far right in the Netherlands has its January line up ready to go with demonstrations and so-called ‘coffee drinking gatherings’. The first took place on the second day of the New Year. The global pandemic has proven to be a productive vehicle for propagating white supremacist rhetoric, dusting off Dutch national-socialist (read: Nazi) paraphernalia and retelling classical antisemitic tropes in a fresh covid look. The pervasiveness of this trend is disconcerting. The perhaps naively presumed-to-be-dormant far right is marching in our Capital’s street, and doing so out in the open.

Something else happened as well. While the extreme right was marching the streets of Amsterdam, a Jewish-led anti-far right demonstration took place in the city center next to a monument dedicated to the Jewish resistance fighters who died during the Second World War. The key-word here: Jewish-led. Around 50 non-Jewish activists came to support this action in solidarity, including Black activist leadership. However logical this might seem, this act of solidarity was somewhat of a historical moment: for years, an openly organized Jewish presence in the activist left was lacking, let alone one that would take the lead. Getting up on a soapbox for the first time in my life I felt a mix of pride at what we have achieved and gratitude for the outpouring of solidarity. But most of all an apprehension of the tasks ahead: delivering a speech is one thing, and then what exactly?

Demonstrating is a form of marking a moment in time, an opportunity to comment on history in the making, and getting a message across. Standing in front of the Jewish resistance monument and visibly speaking out as Dutch Jews was a meaningful political act in its own right. A political act by decidedly naming the white supremacist elephant in the room. Instead of using toned down, cloaked and de-politicized words like ‘persons and groups who are intent on rioting and who are prepared to use violence’ – which was the official wording by the Mayor of Amsterdam, these groups need to be called by their names.

This is not merely semantics. Not naming these people and organizations by their hateful ideologies, the Mayor, city council and the city itself are providing a podium for these ideologies to thrive. This naming can start at a demonstration, however small it might seem. Judging from the police presence at our gathering, and from postings that showed up on the socials of right-wing affiliates, it has not gone unnoticed. A moment has been marked. And a start has been made.

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